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tv   Meet the Presss Press Pass  NBC  July 13, 2014 11:30am-11:46am EDT

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this week on "press pass," anita hill. she became a household name during the 1991 confirmation hearings for supreme court justice clarence thomas. she is now a professor of policy law and women's studies at brandeis university. she is also the subject of a documentary that's out on dvd, "anita speaking truth to power" and professor anita hill joins me now. nice to have you here. >> thank you for having me. >> talk about the film and what you think the lesson of that episode was that you hope comes through in the film. >> i think there are a lot of lessons, but one of the first
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comes from really why i did the film, and that is there is a generation of young people who were born and are now going into the workplace or are already in the workplace experiencing sexual harassment, and i want them to understand what the history is, and really, how the processes by example should not work, and if they do experience it, w things might be better for them. >> and for you what was the glaring lesson of what did work and did not work? >> the lessons of what didn't work, or the part that i think didn't work was that we had a panel of judges -- and we can call them judges now in the forum of senators who are on the senate judiciary committee -- who were not informed about the issue of sexual harassment. they didn't rely on the expert witnesses who were available to
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inform them about sexual harassment. i think they relied in short on some old myths about women's experiences in the workplace and exactly what the problem was, a workplace problem. i think in turn it led them to sort of inject a lot of biases against women and women's experiences into the process as they asked questions and as they presented to the public the issue. >> do you think sexual harassment is in a different place today? do you think women experience it at the same level? >> i think women still experience it. it's hard to measure the level. but it is in a very different place. in the film you will see arlen specter -- not arlen specter, i'm sorry -- alan simpson calling sexual harassment sexual
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harassment crap. i don't think you would have a person in authority who could get away with simply dismissing women's experiences in that way. so yes, we are definitely in a different position. we know that we are dealing with a serious problem, and if we don't think that it still continues to be serious, all you have to do is read what's happening on college campuses with not only sexual harassment but sexual assault. >> what's the response been like to the film? what kinds of questions are you getting asked that strike you as interesting, important questions? >> you know, the interesting thing that people are asking, they're asking a whole myriad of questions. they're asking about the politics, they're asking about the process. and i think they understand and they will learn even more from the film that our processes really matter, that when you see
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something happening with the senate committees where you have individual witnesses testifying that you're talking about real people with real experiences. so the behavior that was exhibited in 1991 not only had an effect on the public and the public conversation that took place, but it had an effect on me and my family as well. and so one of the things -- i think some of the very compassionate people just want to know how do i get through it? and what was it like? and how did my family experience it? and i think that's important. but they're also willing to ask questions about what things have been different, for example, had there been women on the senate judiciary. >> not all white men, which is the case. >> yeah. there was a panel of 14 white men who were living relatively privileged lives, probably had not experienced much about what the workplace was like for a lot
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of working women, and so they want to know if we had women on panel, would things have been different. and, of course, my answer to that, i believe absolutely, yes, the outcome would have been different. or at least, at the very least, the discussion would have been different. >> how did it change your life? what happened to you as a result of all that? >> as a result, my life was really in turmoil afterwards. and you'll see some of what was going on in oklahoma afterwards. there were threats to my job. i was a tenured faculty member at the university of oklahoma college of law. notwithstanding that, we had individual state legislators who were trying to have my tenure revoked for no cause, individual legislators who, when they couldn't revoke my tenure, they took on the appropriation bill and they wanted to close the law school. so they were wanting to get rid
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of me and silence me no matter what. we had people questioning my sanity, questioning my ethics and morality. all of those things that when they happen on an individual you're your elected officials engage -- and they do have an impact on your job, i was at a state school, they have a significant influence on you and also my colleagues. the film with anita hill right after this.
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we're back on "press pass." i'm joined by anita hill who is the subject of the documentary "anita speaking truth to power" just released on dvd and itunes as well. does it stick with you? does the controversy around all of it stick with you? there is a generation of people who may not know your name, but there's certainly a generation of people who still hear anita hill and you're taken back, you know. do you think it's in your past? >> i think it does stick with me, but i think what we should learn is that -- i talk about what happened to me. what i have learned since then is that there are lots of women who have gone through this, not maybe in the public eye, but in a similar way. and so it's not just that this experience has an impact on me. i don't want that to be the
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entire lesson. i want people to understand how it impacts all women. any woman who has to go through this, any workplace where the subject or where the behavior occurs, it has an impact on us, and it has a negative impact. and this is a point in time, i believe, where we can start to look at these issues and make the right changes, whether it's in our investigation processes, whether it's in our procedures we go through when we have hearings on sexual harassment, or whether it's in the way we conduct our lawsuits. >> do you have regrets about how you came forward, when you came forward, and what happened? do you have any regrets about it? >> the regret that i have, really, is that we didn't have a better understanding to be able to present to the american public about the problem. i truly believe that that could have and should have been done through the senate judiciaryveh
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told the truth. there are probably people with whom it will never be settled. and i can understand that, and i can actually live with the fact that people are not certain. but what i don't want to live with is the idea that the issue of sexual harassment has gone away and that that is settled and it's no longer an issue. >> was it worth it? >> it is becoming increasingly worth it, but only because i work at making it worth it. it would not have been worth it if i had gone back and just settled, if you will, for allowing the issue to just hang out there with no information and with no public understanding. it's worth it only if i'm able to keep talking and speaking and talking about women's experiences and now men's experiences as well. it's only worth it if we can


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